Proverbs is the Book of Wisdom. Primarily the work of Solomon, the Lord used the wisest human being in the history of man to record wisdom principles for practical application. Unlike doctrines and promises, principles set forth generalities that are normally observed in the believer’s daily life. Believers may face specific testing for a time that runs contrary to the general principles of wisdom, but over the course of a lifetime, these general principles ring true.
The English word “proverb” comes from the Latin, and the Latin title for the Book is Liber Proverbiorum. The Septuagint, Greek title is Paroimiai Salomontos. The Hebrew title is Mishley Shelomoh. All of these titles effectively say the same thing. The Hebrew mashal cannot be simply rendered “proverb” and communicate the entire concept of the mashal. The mashal is often a short, pithy epigrammatic saying which assumes the status of gnomic truth (i.e. a proverb). In the Old Testament, however, the mashal is sometimes an extended parable. A mashal is sometimes an extended didactic discourse. A person, or a group of people can function as a mashal. In many applications, the English word “byword” is a better rendering for the Hebrew mashal.
Solomon is the principal author of this Book, and the greatest contributor to this entire collection. His name appears in Prov. 1:1; 10:1; & 25:1. Solomon authored 3,000 proverbs (1st Kgs. 4:32), approximately 800 of which are recorded in Scripture. Chapters 1-9 appear to be a collection of proverbs Solomon learned from his parents, and passed along to his own children. Chapters 10-24 constitute the longest collection of Solomon’s wisdom. Chapters 25-29 are a collection of Solomon’s proverbs collected during the reign of Hezekiah, and added to the overall Book. Agur and Lemuel in chapters 30 & 31 remain enigmatic.